You may have heard the term emotional intelligence and wondered what it means. In this short post we’ll outline the basics. Emotional intelligence (EI) is defined as the ability to perceive, control, and evaluate emotions of one’s self and of others.
In the 1990’s researchers Salovey and Mayer, laid the foundation for the theory of emotional intelligence. They suggested that EI has four different levels.
- Emotional perception
- The ability to reason using emotions
- The ability to understand emotions
- The ability to manage emotions
Levels of Emotional Intelligence
The four levels of this emotional intelligence theory are organized by lowest to highest skill difficulty. The first two levels involve perceiving and expressing emotions while the third and fourth levels involve intentional conscious involvement.
The first level of emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive emotions accurately. This includes recognizing non-verbal cues such as body language and facial expressions.
The second level of emotional intelligence is the ability to use emotions to promote thinking and increase cognitive activity. Emotions control what we pay attention to and react to. We naturally respond to people, places, and things that pull our attention.
The third level of emotional intelligence is the ability to understand emotions. Emotion is not all-encompassing and can be created by a number of different variables. For example, if a coworker is displaying verbal or physical acts of anger, he or she may be unhappy with your portion of a project that you jointly worked on or he or she may have received a ticket on the way to work. An emotionally intelligent person must be able to not only observe the angry emotions but interpret what, where, and why the emotions are actually stemming from.
The fourth and final level of emotional intelligence is the ability to effectively manage emotions. This is the most advanced level of EI. The process of not only regulating your internal emotions but also appropriately responding to them is extremely difficult.
Characteristics of Emotionally Intelligent People
Still not sure what emotional intelligence is? Below are eight characteristics of emotionally intelligent people.
- Strong Sense of Self-Awareness: The ability to identify internal strengths and weaknesses. Not looking down on or being afraid to ask for help.
- Embrace Change: The ability to recognize change as an inevitable part of life. Not only recognizing change but embracing it as a way to learn, grow and have new experiences.
- Balanced Lives: The understanding that only focusing on a single aspect of their life will lead to a negative impact on the other important aspects.
- Shows Empathy: The ability to connect with and understand what others are thinking and feeling under the surface. Observing different situations and supporting others accordingly.
- Progress Not Perfection: Pursuing a pure journey of endless improvement instead of unattainable perfection.
- Gratitude: Taking the time, energy, and effort to appreciate what they have. Being happy and grateful in the moment. Not always looking at the grass on the other side.
- Open to Learning: Looking at each day as a new opportunity to learn. Being curious about the wide world around them and taking action to experience new things.
- Receptive to Feedback: Fostering a mindset of open, honest, communication that includes constructive criticism. Emotionally intelligent people do not feel a need to defend or become upset when someone is giving them suggestions or corrections.
Not everyone is born with a high level of emotional intelligence. If you wish to boost your EI level, try some of the below suggestions:
- Practice having a positive attitude. Remember the phrase “Fake it till you make it”
- Practice self-awareness. Each day pick 2 emotional moments to zero in and focus on yourself. How are you feeling, is it justified, why are you feeling this way, and what triggered you? These moments can be positive and/or negative
- Try being approachable and social. This doesn’t mean you need to attend social events each and every day but learn to engage with others more frequently. Smile, standing with an open posture instead of closed off.
Importance of Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is extremely important to living a happy and successful life. On a career or work basis, it helps create an atmosphere of collaboration, resolves conflicts, and builds psychological safety within the entire team. On a personal basis, it helps improve relationships, manage our emotions, and engage in uncomfortable but necessary conversations.